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Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials
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Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials

4.3 53
by Rosalind Wiseman

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Looking for a new beginning after a terrible mean girl past, Charlie Healey realizes there’s no escaping high school drama.

Charlie Healey thinks Harmony Falls is the beginning of a whole new life. Middle school was brutal. But high school is Charlie’s big chance to start over and stay out of drama, except that on her first day she runs into Will,


Looking for a new beginning after a terrible mean girl past, Charlie Healey realizes there’s no escaping high school drama.

Charlie Healey thinks Harmony Falls is the beginning of a whole new life. Middle school was brutal. But high school is Charlie’s big chance to start over and stay out of drama, except that on her first day she runs into Will, her ex–best friend, who had moved away. Now a varsity athlete and hotter than Charlie remembered, Will hangs with the crowd running the school. But Charlie doesn’t understand their power until an innocent delivery guy falls victim to a near-deadly hazing prank.

Torn between doing what’s right and her secret feelings for Will, Charlie must decide whether to turn in her very best friend or live with the guilt of knowing what he did.

Rosalind Wiseman’s first novel for young adults is a fresh, funny, and juicy read about friendship, betrayal, and how far some will go to be accepted.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Pam Carlson
Freshman Charlie discovers she cannot completely outrun her past at a new school when both friends and enemies reappear and especially after observing firsthand a hazing event that almost costs a man his life. For too long, school officials and parents ignored such incidents, preferring a winning lacrosse team to setting standards for behavior off the field. Charlie refuses to back down, even when one of those involved is Will, an old friend and possibly a new romance. Victory in exposing the leaders is bittersweet, but Charlie is finally able to shed her image as a go-along wimp. Characters and situations are authentic for an upper-class, suburban high school. Charlie and company are neither too witty nor wise beyond their years. The actual tragedy occurs near the end of the story despite an implication on the inside cover that it occurs soon after Charlie's arrival at Harmony Falls. On the front, a note from Tina Fey, of all people, hides the faces of Charlie and Will, warning readers not to put the book down or it will talk about them. This reviewer felt that unsuccessful device spoiled a positive first impression, making it one time when readers should not judge a book by its cover. Reviewer: Pam Carlson
Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Charlie Healey is attending Harmony Falls High School to escape the drama she faced in middle school. The girls who were supposed to be her best friends were mean and manipulative and it was easiest to leave them behind. While Charlie has a few bumps in her first few days, she quickly finds a new group of good friends. She thrives in her involvement with the school newspaper and in the challenging classes. But she soon discovers that not all is perfect at Harmony Falls. The student body pride relies on a strong sense of tradition. Some are fun, like the floats for the homecoming parade, but others are dangerous. When an old friend gets caught up in hazing rituals for the lacrosse team, Charlie must decide between doing what is right and what is popular. While the story includes subtle lessons about friendship and values, these do not overwhelm the fun and fast-paced narrative. The situations will be familiar to many readers and the characters are engaging, with just enough romantic interest. Young adult books displaying positive relationships with family members, teachers, and peers are in short supply. While the adults are realistically flawed, their interactions are natural and supportive. This is a humorous look at teenage life that explores many of the problems in a straightforward, yet intuitive manner. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
Publishers Weekly
Wiseman's (Queen Bees & Wannabees) by-the-numbers YA debut introduces Charlie Healey, a spirited ninth grader who enters prestigious Harmony Falls High School, ready to leave behind the traumas and “frenemies” of middle school. But when a childhood friend, Will, as well as a girl she had a hand in humiliating, transfer to her school, the drama she was trying to escape comes flooding back into her life. Between her feisty and boy-crazy friend Sydney (“she was my friend and unconditional friendship included throwing yourself into potentially mind-blowingly stupid situations”), her crush on Will, and the lacrosse team's increasingly violent hazing traditions, Charlie has to restructure her priorities, analyze her values, and take a stand. Charlie possesses all the uncertainty and self-doubt of a typical high-school freshman, although some of the plot particulars and her first-person narrative, which is spliced with occasional IM conversations and newspaper articles, are sometimes more reminiscent of high school sitcoms than real life. Nonetheless Wiseman has created an honest story of the convoluted workings of teenage friendships and relationships. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
Gr 8–11—Attempting to avoid vicious, former "frenemies" (and their influence), Charlotte Healey starts her high school career in neighboring Harmony Falls, hoping for a clean slate. Things look promising when she makes friends the first day and awkwardly reunites, after three years, with ex-best friend/boy-next-door-turned-crush Will. Unfortunately, people from Charlie's past keep turning up, like Nidhi, former target of the nasty kids at her old school. Charlie and Nidhi reconcile and score a column in the school paper on the freshman experience. Trying to find romance and their niche in the social hierarchy, Charlie and company survive the familiar highs and lows of high school and friendship in a place where traditions, both exclusionary and dangerous, reign. Charlie learns that both sexes are equally capable of cruelty, manipulation, and susceptibility to social pressure, but she's no longer one to keep quiet when the bullies and their enablers need to be taken to task. Wiseman's fiction debut has recognizable situations and archetypes, though Harmony Falls's students and authority figures sometimes come off as stock, superficial, or stereotypical. Fortunately, Charlie proves a flawed, humorous, and perceptive narrator as she matures, standing up for herself and others. There is occasional swearing, some forced dialogue (heavy on the exclamations), and a discussion-worthy ending. While high school can seem "life and death" dramatic, Wiseman reveals the nasty business of bullying and the ugly (sometimes life-threatening) turns that questing for acceptance can take.—Danielle Serra, Cliffside Park Public Library, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Wiseman has written widely on the social dynamics of teens, most notably in Queen Bees & Wannabes (2002). Here she fictionalizes the themes of her earlier works with the story of Charlie Healy, a ninth grader making a fresh start at the high school across town. Harmony Falls High might be a refuge from the frenemies she left behind in Greenspring, who made eighth grade so torturous, but it's still fraught with peril: Bullies, clueless teachers and malevolent administrators abound. Controversy over the lacrosse team's behavior off the field calls into question the ethics of the school, the players and Charlie's childhood best friend, Will, who is enduring the ritual humiliations of joining the team. The story reads like a public-service announcement on the hazards of hazing; wise beyond her years, Charlie's voice lacks adolescent authenticity, and her column in the school newspaper is preachy at times. But Charlie and her friends are outspoken and engaging, and the ending, while neither surprising nor original, will satisfy readers who like a tidy finish. (Fiction. 11-14)

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.06(w) x 8.62(h) x 1.01(d)
HL660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Here’s the deal. My name is Charlie—and, yes, I’m a girl. My full name is Charlotte Anne Healey. I’m about to start ninth grade, live in a fairly normal neighborhood, have a tolerable older brother, and my parents are usually sane. I’m about five feet five, have brown eyes, brownish blond hair that’s okay, but I’m definitely not shampoo commercial girl, and I don’t wake up at five a.m. every morning to blow-dry my hair. I’m not anorexic or bulimic and generally think my body isn’t completely unfortunate. Which frankly, maintaining that perspective while I’m surrounded by skinny girls constantly complaining about how fat they are, is a serious accomplishment.

On the other hand, I can be slow to admit the obvious. Painfully slow. That, combined with my other major personal weakness of occasionally having no backbone with my friends, meant I had to get a grip and do two things: First, I finally admitted to myself that my best friends were actually my frenemies. (You know, girls I didn’t trust 100 percent, but for some reason were my closest friends.) Second, when I graduated from eighth grade last year, I ran at the first opportunity, which in my case took the form of transferring to another high school so I could hopefully meet cool, interesting, nonevil, nonvindictive friends.

What was my middle school like? Ben Franklin Middle School was one of those renovated middle schools that look like a mall. Everything was a soothing shade of beige, strategically placed skylights gave us the illusion of access to the outside world, and it was way too big for any twelve-year-old kid to walk the halls alone. When I started there in sixth grade, I really began to doubt the sanity of adults. Seriously, who could possibly think it’s a good idea to put 1,500 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders together? I guess they never read Lord of the Flies—even though it’s been on the summer eighth-grade reading list for the last thirty years.

Anyway, three months ago I walked out the front doors of Ben Franklin a free woman. New page. Clean slate. How can I describe my feelings walking out of Ben Franklin? You know when you do something that you don’t want your parents to know about but you think there’s a good chance they might find out and if they do, your life as you know it is over? At first, you can’t breathe, you’re totally self-conscious, and you’re positive you’ll be found out any second. But days go by and it dawns on you that you pulled it off. Well, maybe that hasn’t happened to you, but that’s how I felt when I walked out of that school for the last time. I just kept thinking, “I did it. I’m free.”

Chapter 1

I should have been clearer about my musical demands because I arrived at Harmony Falls High School in my dad and brother’s pet project, a restored 1963 Ford Falcon, top down, with my dad blasting Styx’s “Come Sail Away.”

Why couldn’t my brother Luke have driven me? When I begged him that morning he just shook his head and laughed. “Not happening, Charles. I’m not getting within a mile of that place.”

I slid down in the seat so no one would see me. But that also meant I couldn’t see exactly where we were going. Before I knew it, I saw a huge flagpole and multicolored brick walls. My dad had driven right up to the driveway of the school.

“Dad!” I hissed, “Seriously, please let me out of the car! You’re killing me.”

My dad turned off the music, not because I asked him to but because he couldn’t hear me. “What, honey?” He looked around. “Seems like this is this where I should drop you off, doesn’t it?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe you could drive around a little more and completely humiliate me again before I get out of this car,” I said, slowly sitting up and looking around to see if anyone noticed our arrival. Of course they had. There were hundreds of kids walking past me, and some of them were definitely looking in my direction.

Three boys looked up. They were dressed in khaki shorts, Rainbows, and T-shirts, as if there was a dress code. “Nice car. Is that a sixty-five?”

My dad grinned. “Almost! It’s a sixty-three,” he said, like a ten-year-old showing off his new bike.

“Dad,” I whispered, “please try to restrain yourself.”

Not a chance because a really hot brown-haired one asked, “Is it stock?”

My dad grinned even wider. “It’s got a few tweaks. My son and I swapped in a 302 with a T-5 and a Hurst shifter. We’re still sorting it out, but she’ll do sixty in about six seconds, if you can get the traction.”

The boy stepped back a few feet and looked at the car again. He crossed his arms. “Sweet,” he said, nodding.

Then my dad did the worst thing possible. “Guys, this is my daughter, Charlie!”

All three did the “Hey, what’s up?” boy grunt.

“Hi,” I mumbled, bright red.

“Okay, Dad, you can go now!” I groaned, opening the car door.

My dad grimaced. “Oh, I guess that was sort of bad. Sorry about that. Maybe I’m a little nervous for you.”

“I know.”

He leaned over and kissed me on the check. “How about I make it up to you? Get takeout at Nam Viet? And feel free to tell those boys your dad’s really lame.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll definitely say something bad about you,” I said, standing up.

My dad yelled behind me, “Bye, Charlie! Have a good day!” I waved to him without looking back and stepped into the next four years of my life.


What People are Saying About This

Tina Fey
"Rosalind Wiseman once again writes with humor, compassion and accuracy about the high school experience . . . You can't put this book down... or it will talk about you while you're out of the room."
Meg Cabot
"A must-read! Funny as well as painfully familiar. I really wish I'd had this book as an incoming high school freshman."

Meet the Author

Rosalind Wiseman is the New York Times bestselling author of Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence, which inspired the movie Mean Girls, co-written with Tina Fey. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two sons.

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Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
pagese More than 1 year ago
I liked this book, it just felt like the intended audience was a little younger than I was expecting. The main character is a freshman in high school so I'm not sure why I was expecting a little bit more mature YA. I liked Charlie though. She's just learning who she is and how not to let people walk over her. I thought she was very brave for going to a brand new school to try and overcome what happened in the past. She handled herself extremely well for the situations she was put in. She didn't compromise herself to fit in with the "it" crowd. I liked her group of friends. They provided the comic and occasionally the voice of reason. I also felt like they acted their age. I was happy to see her make friends with someone she unintentionally hurt in the past. I did feel it was a little predictable, but not enough to make me feel like putting the book down. It had just enough drama and surprises to keep the story going. I'm intrigued to read the author's book that is the basis for the movie Mean Girls.
DanceBree17 More than 1 year ago
This review will be a little different since i have just graduated and moved on from the high school drama, but I really liked this book alot. The main character of Charlotte(Charlie) is starting a new high school where she hopes she is leaving the bad karma of her old school and friends behind. But slowly she finds that she can run but she cant hide as players from her past keep dropping into her new start. What I like about Charlie is that she takes a brave stand against things that are happening at her new school and she really makes a difference, even for a freshman. This is a great gift to any girl who is making the jump this summer from middle school into the high school world. Looking back I totally felt the way Charlie did, I wanted to leave my old school and friends behind, but I found that I couldnt totally get away from everything and you have to face certain people to make a difference.
Lynn_Bailey More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books ever! When I first saw the cover I fell in love. The whole book is basically about a girl, Charlie, and the major problems going on in her life--her first year in high school, making new friends, standing up to old enemies, and of course, boys. There are several boys Charlie and her friends encounter (Dylan, Will, Tyler, etc.) and they are all wonderfully developed. The only thing I did not like was the ending. It left off on an AMAZING PART! and I was dissapointed there was nothing further atfer that. But hey, maybe there will be a sequel! I can only hope! :D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love these drama like books if you like this one than youll love the lonley hearts club
danielledefillippo More than 1 year ago
This book was great! I love the plot of the story and how it can relate to any teenage girl out there! It has to do with boy drama and girl drama. You can expect a great ending from the book! Read the book to find out if Will and Charlie end up together after all.
Meghan Petenbrink More than 1 year ago
i think this was a great book! it had lots of twists, and lots of exciting chapters that kept you on the edge of your seat! i loved it well done! Meghan:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
NerdyMusicBliss More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Charlie and Will are so good for each other. Charlie tries to look out for Will even though he doesn't want it. Charlie has such good intentions, although she made mistakes. This story draws you in and you find yourself feeling disgusted and ashamed of some people. Just give it a read for fun. I hope Wiseman write more books like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will want 2read it again
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book. I would recommend this book to people that need AR points because it's a fast read. It almost seems like the book is tring to hurry up and finish at the end. Like its trying to make its point right at the end of the book. Never the less it's still a pretty good book. AR points:9
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Frankie Crawford More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I read it when i was a freshman i coukd really relate to charlie. Great book
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